JAIC 1987, Volume 26, Number 2, Article 3 (pp. 85 to 104)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1987, Volume 26, Number 2, Article 3 (pp. 85 to 104)


Niccolo Leo Caldararo


The development of conservation practice in archaeology and anthropology proceeded on a somewhat haphazard basis with European publications influencing American writers in a slow and uneven manner. The actual effect of these publications is questionable as treatments are scarcely mentioned in archaeological reports. In general, as Howie's results (1984) indicate for the field of paleontology and as seems consistent from the bibliographic material in this paper, methods and materials are easily introduced but resist rejection. Publication of new data on materials, rejection/repudiation of inferior techniques, and the introduction of new methods are slow to reach the majority of practitioners.

What this survey has shown is that there is a great need for conservators to offer courses in university anthropology departments and to offer reviews of general anthropology and archaeology texts, site reports and survey materials in order to expose archaeologists and anthropologists and their students to new trends in conservation. These reviews must be offered to journals in the field of anthropology and archaeology as well as appearing as presentations in national and regional conferences. A related problem is the lack of general texts in conservation and especially archaeological conservation.

Specialization in analytical and recovery techniques will most likely continue to benefit students of archaeometry rather than those minoring in conservation in university departments of anthropology. The largest number of university positions call for individuals who can still teach in several general survey and subject areas while pursuing specialized research, but we can hope that the trend of double masters (so frequently seen in England) of anthropologists with diplomas in conservation will increase.

The trend toward specialization in conservation is becoming an increasing reality in the graduation of conservation students from the various programs (NIC, 1984). This trend and the increasing number of retiring general practitioners in conservation will deny to the field the publication of generalized texts so prevalent in other fields and especially needed here to introduce archaeologists and their students to the field. The composition of such texts differs fundamentally from collections of articles written by different specialists, in that the experienced overview is drawn from years of study and experiment seasoned with examples of trial and error so necessary to learning. Such texts are the foundation of any discipline and, as the yearly swarm of introductory texts in every field proves, a necessary means of updating and focusing any body of organized knowledge.

The specter of so many experienced and older practitioners leaving the field by retirement without publishing summaries of their experience or outlines of their work in textbook form brings to the mind the plea of the 1923 Committee on Restoration and Preservation of Painting, Drawing and Prints (Museums J., 1923:118): “…it does seem necessary to issue a reminder that the absence of any official record of the measure of success or failure is an effectual barrier to the progress of knowledge upon the subject in question.” The publication of volume I of Herman Kühn's Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities by Butterworths (1986) is an exception which hopefully will become a trend.

Copyright © 1987 American Institute of Historic and Artistic Works